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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Friday, February 26, 2021

Avoiding Confusion in a Crisis with Proper Estate Planning

The sudden death or incapacitation of a loved one can be overwhelming. It can also create a financial crisis for the family. Without a comprehensive estate plan, a spouse may be unable to access accounts and funds the family needs to pay bills and living expenses. There could be confusion about who has the authority to make crucial decisions. The crisis can be avoided by working with a California estate planning attorney to develop an estate plan.

Naming Someone to Be in Charge

One of the sources of confusion during a crisis is deciding who is in charge. Adult children might not be able to agree about health care decisions for a parent. A surviving spouse and adult children might argue about how property should be managed in an estate until it is distributed to heirs.

When multiple family members claim the right to make decisions, the court may make that decision. You can avoid this situation by executing estate planning documents that give the authority to make decisions for one person.

Three Essential Estate Planning Documents Everyone Needs

You may utilize various estate planning tools to protect your family and ensure your wishes are carried out after your death or incapacitation. However, there are three essential estate planning documents that everyone needs to avoid confusion during a crisis.

Last Will and Testament

If you die without a will, the California intestate laws determine how your property is distributed. While most people intend to leave their property to their surviving spouse and children, that might not be your desire. You may want to leave some property to a friend, charity, or distant relative. Without a will, there is a good chance that will not happen.

A will also appoints a person to manage your estate. It gives that person the authority to pay your final bills, manage and protect assets, and take other steps to finalize your estate. Without a will, your heirs may argue about who is in charge. The court will make the final decision for them.

Durable General Power of Attorney

If you are unable to make financial decisions because of an incapacity, you need someone who can step in and make those decisions. Having someone with authority to pay bills, manage assets, and protect your property can avoid problems and confusion in a crisis.

A power of attorney appoints someone to manage your assets and make financial decisions on your behalf. The “durable” clause in a power of attorney ensures that the authority to make decisions continues even if you become incapacitated.

Health Care Documents

If you cannot make health care decisions, someone needs to have the authority to make those decisions for you. Your spouse generally has the legal authority to make health care decisions unless there is a legal document giving someone else that authority. If you are not married, your adult children or closest relative generally have the power to make health care decisions.

When multiple individuals have an equal right to make health care decisions, it can cause problems and disagreements unless you have a power of attorney or another estate document that names one person to make health care decisions. Estate planning documents also allow you to dictate whether you desire to have life-sustaining medical intervention.

Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney for Help

The best way to avoid confusion during a crisis is to have a plan before the crisis arises. A California estate planning attorney can help you develop a plan that addresses these questions while meeting your goals and desires for protecting your loved ones. Contact our office today.


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